Iranian Cuisine: Estamboli Polo

This dish is called ‘Estamboli Polo’  which literally means ‘spiced potato stew with rice’.
One of the most classic and aromatic of Iranian dishes, it has been one of my favourites ever since I was a child. A delicious dish that can be varied in many different ways from adding green beans or lentils to using chicken or lamb as the base meat. Whatever you decide it essentially remains the same yellow gooey dish that warms the belly and is easy to make.

Oddly enough making the sauce for this is not too different from making the sauce for pasta. When people think of food from the east the expectation is one of weird spices and exotic mixtures, but actually a lot of Iranian food is more closely related to Greek and Italian food. With basic ingredients blended together it ends up as a filling, stomach soothing dish. Whilst preperation time can be quite consuming, with practice you can time it perfectly, ready for dinner.

This particular recipe has been handed down through my family orginating in Tehran, the Capital of Iran.


2 medium Onions (some regions of Iran like to use red onions but try the normal kind first then kick it up a notch)

500g Minced beef

350g new potatoes

Salt, a couple of table spoons, adjust to the quantity of you dish

Pepper, only a few dashes, you can add more later

½ tsp cinnamon

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato puree


700g Basmati rice (this is the prefered rice if you want the rich flavor)

Make sure the oven is at full temperature. Fry the diced onion, add the mince meat, stir until it is nice and brown.

Add the chopped up potatoes (any size you like, small if you want the flavor to spread) and stir for a minute or so, add all other ingredients and a little water(just half the pot) and let it simmer until the potatoes are cooked. Then you have your sauce!

In a separate pot boil some water (just a few centimetres below the top of the pot), add the rice and let it boil for about 10 minutes until the rice is cooked but still has a bite (stick a fork in the rice to test the consistency). Drain the rice and gently layering it with the sauce, mix gently through with a fork so that the sauce completely covers the rice.

Put back over a low heat for another 10 minutes until steam is coming out of the pot. Then serve and enjoy! For a little added spice sprinkle a few teaspoons of saffron in top, this will give it a little kick.

Variations on the recipe:

Chopped olives sprinkled into the sauce

Garlic added before turning the heat down

Any type of meat, goat is said to be a particularly scrumptious addition in the South of Iran

Any kind of green bean or dried fruit added when the potatos are added

As they say at dinnertime in Tehran “Be’far’ma’eid, sho’rou ko’need ” or as they say in England “Please start eating”


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